59. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

3936. For Cleveland from Plimpton.2 Regional development in Southeast Asia: discussion with UN SYG.

In response to Deptel 2383,3 Jackson and I this afternoon discussed informally with UN SYG and Bunche possibility of SYG taking initiative in proposing major new international development program in SEA. I mentioned point five of Presʼs statement and Canadian interest as expressed by Pearson. I emphasized US interested in cooperative program in area which would be directed to overcoming poverty, ignorance and disease. US envisaged program not directed against any particular ideology or country but one which was pro people of SEA. We had in mind very substantial resources being available. I said we believed there would be many advantages if SYG felt he could take lead in initiating such a program. I therefore wanted talk with him informally at this stage to see if he felt an initiative on his part might be appropriate. If so, we could discuss more detailed possibilities with him within few days.

U Thant spoke with genuine warmth of Pres Johnsonʼs initiative in point five of his statement and said he had been giving great deal of thought to what might be done. It was clear he appreciated opportunity to talk informally about possibilities. He indicated he thought UN economic commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) should be used in [Page 151] any new cooperative effort. He said he had not as yet received report on their recent mtg at Wellington. If he found no report on that mtg had reached NY, he would cable immediately for word of any relevant discussions.

He apparently envisages any initiative by him as moving on from the report as perhaps a take-off point. SYG said he would like now to consult promptly with his associates.

I mentioned possibility North Vietnamese participation in regional development effort, and spoke of Sov membership in ECAFE as providing opportunity ascertain extent their interest. SYG did not express reservation on either point, saying only that regional economic development was one of things he had had in mind earlier as subject for useful negotiation. SYG said he would not take any initiative until had talked further with US about detailed possibilities. I have impression from discussion that SYG open to taking lead if he can find line of approach which has some possibility of getting Hanoi on board. He made no commitment but is obviously genuinely interested.

As mtg ended I mentioned that our reply to the Seventeen was still being worked on and said I believed we would soon be able give him copy.

Following the mtg SYG, Jackson and Pedersen talked informally with Narasimhan and Goldschmidt. Discussion followed same general line as with SYG except focus was on seeking counsel of Narasimhan and Goldschmidt on best means getting cooperation of countries of SEA and building on UNʼs development experience in the area. Both UN officials believed ECAFE best framework. Narasimhan thought North Viet “initiative” to obtain membership ECAFE would be essential. He speculated whether North Viet could join ECAFE without North Korea also being admitted. He also doubted whether World Bank could be used as executive agent for multi-national projects if Sovs decided contribute. He favored new program being built around present Mekong River arrangements. Narasimhan referred in passing to idea of UN guard forces for development projects in the area and indicated UN remained interested in such possibilities. Narasimhan, as former exec secy of ECAFE, and Goldschmidt, as UN Mekong desk man, expressed appreciation for opportunity for timely informal consultation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Exdis.
  2. Francis T.P. Plimpton, Deputy U.S Representative to the United Nations.
  3. Dated April 4. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)